i disagree with everything you just said.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

we are what we are willing to put up with.

spent a painful and ultimately fruitless morning banging my head and hands against the train wreck of an implementation of drupal that is ourmedia.org. an otherwise wonderful gift to the world brought down hard by an incredibly user-unfriendly system that had me on the verge of tears before i had even completed the registration process. based on this and several other encounters with drupal, i'm going to have to say that it is a generous open-source effort that ultimately causes more harm than good — a well-intentioned disaster.

ourmedia did an ok job customizing the look but blew chunks all over the feel — it's the first time i've ever spent a full hour trying just to register with a system, not because the network was slow but because the registration and login interface was so mind-bogglingly unclear and unintuitable, so completely lacking in any sense of flow, so unwilling to teach me how it worked, and so overloaded with trite interactive web cliches like incomprehensible system-based error messages that i had actually succeeded in signing up for the service under three separate usernames before ever even realizing that i had successfully signed up once. and then only because i happened to check my email after finally throwing up my hands in despair, since the system had completely failed to inform me a) that i had succeeded or b) that it was going to send me that email.

however, my purpose here is not to harangue the open source pseudo-cms [1] community (i leave that to taller pathers than i), but suffice to say, if i were anybody else, i certainly would have given up. which begs the question: why didn't i? i have at this point successfully registered for the site [2] and so evidently i put up with the pain, but only because ourmedia has something i rilly rilly want: unlimited bandwidth, forever and ever, for really big files. that sort of thing is usually pretty damn expensive, see, and right now i can't afford to host this 107mb streaming media file i've got here on my desktop on my own site because my isp has the usual bandwidth limitations we all dwell beneath. i need those fat ourmedia pipes, and if i lose an hour of my life trying to get it, well, that's the way it's gotta be.

still, it makes me sad. people shouldn't have to put up with the lowest crappiest denominator just because it gives them something they need. that sort of thinking leads to wal-mart; exurbs; low-income projects; economy class seating; cheap wooden coffins; houston, texas; almost every cell phone out there; cash advances; straight-to-video disney cartoons; the list goes on and on. people deserve a little more beauty in their lives, and i don't just mean michael graves toasters from target &mdash i mean things that look right and work well, things that are fully integrated into our lives and into the world.

it's more than just beauty, even — it's caring. people deserve to be considered, and they deserve products built by people who have considered this. this is what i mean when i call drupal a well-intentioned disaster — they look to put something better into the world, to aid, but the frustration that their software brings because it wasn't really made for people (or at least, not all the right people) utimately notches our quality of life down a peg or three, on balance. [3]

inside ap, i'm one of the people who advocates loudest for spreading better design methods outward — what might be called design thinking, though i'm not sure how much i buy into that particular movement yet — getting the philosophy behind the work we do baked into more of the companies and organizations we work with. teaching them how to care about the people they should care about, to see that decisions should be made not by "choosing between multiple options, [but by] creating those options." but it's difficult, to understand let alone justify, and i'm just one person at one company. still, we're working on it.

moral of this story? this design shit is hard work, people. but it's important. find room for it. make it part of every decision that you make. we need to craft a better place in place of this one, in every sense of the world.

[1] by "pseudo-cms," i don't mean that the open source community doesn't make "real" cmses — i mean that cmses as a class of software simply don't exist. the term is so broad as to be meaningless. i agree that we have content we need to manage, and that we develop systems to manage that content, and that's cool — but some of those systems don't involve technology at all, and a class of software that claims to "manage content" in a generic and sweeping fashion is pure snake-oil. don't buy it.

[2] sort of — turns out you have to register twice, for complicated and badly argued reasons, and then and only then can you upload media to the system. though in all honesty i haven't managed to do that either, since the app keeps timing out before my quicktime file upload completes. alas.

[3] open source advocates, please please: i know all the arguments, i know you say that designers don't participate and it's their own damn fault, and i'm here to say that your systems and techniques, marvelously developed and honed for the craft of distributed open source code creation, don't allow for this design thinking, much less design participation. not to mention that you should also care about the design part of it, and not just rely on "designers" to step in and fix stuff. it ain't like repainting a house. and, no, i don't have a solution to this problem yet, but acknowledging it as an actual problem, and a systemic one, would be a good first step.


Blogger micki said...

there's not a whole lot you can do at ourmedia that you can't do at the internet archive. i've been finding stuff there just as easily. i have cut out the middle man.

4/06/2005 10:37 AM

Blogger Little Tobacco said...

check out http://www.blogmatrix.com for the storage and bandwidth solutions that actually work.

4/25/2005 9:12 AM


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